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In 2016, Out & About Nashville readers chose a new tattoo shop, Alchemy Nashville, as the best place to get a tattoo. In addition to being new on the scene, Alchemy also has the distinction of being owned and operated by an LGBT artist, Tai Orten.
Tai has been tattooing for ten years, but she only established Alchemy in East Nashville between December 2015 and February of 2016. Before that she had worked at four or five different studios—most recently Electric Hand—honing her craft. Her own studio is a one-woman shop, open by appointment only. And that’s working for her: through word-of-mouth and referrals alone, she’s booked out four or five months in advance.
Tai was gracious enough to chat with us about how she got started in tattoos, what it was like developing as a lesbian and female artist in a male-dominated field, and to give some pointers to newbies.
O&AN: How did you first get into tattoos and tattooing?
Tai: I was introduced to it when I was about sixteen. I ended up doing a tattoo kind of as a bribe from my mom. She absolutely hated piercings, and I wanted one, so she's like, "I'll take you to get your first tattoo if you do not get this awful tongue ring." I was like, "Okay. That's totally done."
She took me for that when I was 16 at a local shop in Murray, Kentucky. It was owned by this guy named Jerry Riegger, who was an old time tattoer, and I was just lucky enough to have access to him. Over that course of time, probably about a year, I would drop by and kind of bug him and ask him about tattooing and stuff. At that point I had pretty much had a fire under my a**, and I knew I wanted to get involved in some way because I had always been drawing.
I guess I finally bugged him enough because he definitely didn't take me seriously when I first came in there. He ended up giving me an apprenticeship when I was around 17. That's how initially I got my foot in the door was through him and through that small town that I lived in.
O&AN: Were you out back then?
Tai: Selectively. I didn't make it known where I lived or at my high school. It was in Murray, Kentucky—it's very small, pretty Bible Belt, very conservative overall. I'm sure there wer a few people that would have been okay with it, but I just wasn't wanting to put that out there to where it might backfire and stuff. I was selectively out as far as friends and with Jerry I was as well.
That was actually probably one of the cool things about being a gay female: at that point it wasn't as prevalent. So I think I was kind of was able to avoid some of the things that sometimes women have to deal with in the male dominated industry by simply just being gay. I was different.
O&AN: I was going to ask what it was like developing a career as a woman, because I do know it's kind of a ‘macho’ industry sometimes.
Tai: Yeah. I would say it definitely draws a certain crowd. Even more so as you go back, and then back even further: it was slimmer and slimmer in terms of the women that were involved in it. Now it's a much more open environment and I think it embraces women a little bit more.
O&AN: How would you advise someone on how to find an artist who meshes with the style that they're looking for?
Tai: I would say just research, look online. This goes for tattooers looking at other tattooers for learning purposes and for inspiration… Everything is on social media now. You can really get to see a body of work from any artist from any town that you want to and that you're interested in. The big thing that I look for is whether the work that they currently have is within the realm of what you could consider getting and that the line work is consistently clean, the images are clear, the application is solid.
O&AN: Do your own personal tattoos revolve around themes or events, or do they have any LGBT significance?
Tai: I would say all of my tattoos kind of revolve around a general concept: I would say all of them in some way or other have a theme of life, death, decay, and growth... My right side is my life, abundance, and growth side. My left side is more death, change, decay, that kind of concept… But nothing in terms of struggle as far as coming out or anything like that. That's always been something I kind of work out mentally more so than on the skin.
O&AN: Among your clients, you must have a lot of LGBT people. Do you see themes in what they’re looking for? Do they often want LGBT-themed tattoos?
Tai: Sure. Yeah you do run across that from time to time. I definitely work with a huge segment of the LGBT community, everything from ... a fifty-fifty split of men and women and everything within the gender spectrum, trans community, that kind of deal. Some of them do choose to have things that are just very specifically focused on some kind of struggle or some change. But generally I find that most people, LGBT or not, will start projects and want to get a tattoo around times of change. It can be something as simple as a breakup or something that shifted in their day to day life. It's almost like a fresh start in a way.
O&AN: Do you think LGBT people are more comfortable with an LGBT artist.
Tai: Sometimes. Sometimes they are reluctant to share details of their lives when they don’t know how the tattooer will respond. When I have people from the LGBT community come in, sometimes they know that I am, and sometimes it naturally just works itself into the conversation, like "Oh, my girlfriend…" You know? And they’re like, "Oh, okay." Then you sometimes see them relax a bit.
Some people have told me of bad experiences and that they wanted to come to an LGBT artist so they could feel comfortable. It's something that I've come across from time to time. To feel comfortable you need to know what you’re walking into. You don't know how the audience is going to be. You don't know if people are going to receive you well or have something nasty to say to make you feel. I think it is getting better overall, I think that that somebody who is a tattooer … it would not behoove them to embrace that negativity.
O&AN: Do you see much pushback on tattoos or hear about it? I know most of the people you work with regularly are on board, but…
Tai: Oh yeah. It's weird for me to step outside into that, actually. Tattoos are my day-to-day life, so I forget sometimes until I walk into a grocery store and somebody pulls their kid back like I'm going to abduct them. You still see that, and you’re like, “I'm not going to take your kid because I'm a tattoo person.”
I think that definitely is going to take a lot of time to fade out, but more and more I get to see doctors, lawyers, and folks that would typically not be thought of as having tattoos, get tattoos. Sometimes they'll still be selective about placement and that will hide them: I might know about them and their significant others will, but the vast majority of people won't get to see that.
Same things with teachers and things like that. I'll feel like I'm winning a secret victory when I tattoo a teacher. You don't usually get to see them as people, like a regular person, when you're a kid…
O&AN: What do you consider your specialties? Are there kinds of tattoos that you will refer clients to other artists to get?
Tai: Portraiture would be the main thing, because I can do it and that's something that not everybody is always comfortable with. However, I really do cover a wide variety of styles. The only thing that I wouldn't advertise myself for would probably be New School. I enjoy it, and I think it looks really great, but it's not my jam …
O&AN: Do you have some tips about preparing for getting a tattoo, or some things people ought to know about getting a tattoo before they get one?
Tai: Look for somebody versatile with clean, solid, consistent work who can accommodate your style that you're wanting. In terms of preparing yourself for the day, be well rested and have limited time constraints. Be prepared to empty your mind. Be aware that after the tattoo you are going to have to avoid water, besides a shower, for a few weeks at least. Try to be able to rest for a few days after, and also remember that tattoo placement can be extra uncomfortable depending on profession: I had somebody get a hand tattoo, and he was a landscaping person, and ended up working with manure literally the next day. That's not a good idea.
O&AN: How do people make an appointment with you, since you don’t have open hours?
Tai: I've kind of set up a system where I do everything through email. And so, when somebody is interested in getting work, I just tell them to go to my website (tattoosbt.com) and fill out a contact form. It asks specific questions on what they want, what their budget is for the project. It asks them to select photos that might be references that will point me in a direction. And then from there, if it's something that I think I can do for them, I'll send them the link to my calendar, and then they select a consult time. From there we hammer out a timeline. The consultation also allows us to make sure we’re on the same wavelength.
Check out more of Tai’s work on Instagram (@alchemynashville) and, again, visit tattoosbt.com for more information or to schedule a consultation.
For those with a thirst to celebrate, Red Bull Unlocked is the key. In city after city, the most exciting bars, clubs, mixologists, performing artists, and more take over a local landmark building to showcase their signature ambiance while also collaborating for a must-see mashup. And now it's Music City’s turn to seize the spotlight, as the event brings 10 bars together in East Nashville’s Five Points neighborhood.
Fueled by the best of Nashville’s thriving music scene, Red Bull Unlocked has curated an eclectic night of show-stopping entertainment performances including a pop-up Whiskey Jam show, DJ sets, musicians, and more. The full lineup is here:
- Whiskey Jam (feat. Dozzi, Willie Shaw, and Johnny Hayes)
- A.B. Eastwood
- Daisha / Rap Girl
- Boom Bap (DJ Collective feat. DJ-Rate, Case Bloom)
- Whiskey Disco (DJ Collective feat. Coach, Jim O'Shea)
- Old Crow Medicine Show’s Jerry Pentercost (DJ Set)
- DJ Stretch
- DJ Griffin Green
- The Play Mates (Drag Show feat. Sasha, Vanity, Deception, Aura Mayari, Corlis Todd, and Carmin Triple C)
Counting down to the epic celebration, Daisha shares, “I never thought I’d have the opportunity to perform in so many of Nashville’s top spots all in the same night. Fans can expect a lot of bops and high energy. I want people to dance and have a good time.”
Ward Guenther, Whiskey Jam Founder, adds, “Red Bull has been enjoyed at Whiskey Jam since the very first night, so it's only fitting Whiskey Jam is enjoyed at Nashville's first Red Bull Unlocked. Looking forward to this!”
Red Bull Unlocked Istanbul
Photo courtesy of Red Bull
Local favorites including Pearl Diver, Tin Roof, Lipstick Lounge, White Limozeen, and more will join forces for one epic night. Full list of bars and partners below:
- The Dive Motel
- Lipstick Lounge
- Pearl Diver
- Play Dance Bar
- Rosemary & Beauty Queen
- The Stage
- Tin Roof
- Whiskey Jam
- White Limozeen
- Woolworth Theatre – Opening Fall 2022!
- Eleven Eleven - Opening 2023!
Date: August 21, 2022
Time: 6 PM – 11PM CT
Location: 1102 Forrest Ave, Nashville, TN 37206
Entrance: Ticked event
Rumble Boxing, the boxing-inspired group fitness studio, opened its doors for the first time in Nashville on June 20 at 609 Overton St, Nashville, TN. The hottest workout on the block is hosting its official grand opening from August 4th-7th with daily classes, membership specials, and prizes from local vendors. The new Rumble Boxing studio is currently offering a buy one class, get one free promotion for the Nashville community.
Rumble Boxing delivers 45-minute, 10-round, strength and conditioning group workouts, crafted around teardrop-style aqua boxing bags and high-intensity strength training circuits. This brings all fitness levels together to experience what Rumble is known for: combining the sweet science of boxing with high energy and positive vibes.
Rumble Boxing Fitness Studio
Photo courtesy of Rumble Boxing Gulch Nashville
This boutique fitness brand offers serious benefits like increased stamina and strength, with cardio that’s actually fun. The seasoned trainers at the new studio are thrilled to serve their local community while offering this fun, new modern approach to boxing and welcome members of all fitness levels to the Rumble family.
The new Rumble Boxing studio is owned and operated by Blake Baskin and Antonio Compton. With their background in the fitness industry, this dynamic duo is excited to bring their passion for boxing and group fitness to Nashville. As business and life partners, Blake and Antonio aim to create a strong community within their new Rumble Boxing studio and share their message of non-apologetic inclusivity.
Black and Gay-Owned Business
Rumble Boxing Store with Dolly Parton Mural
Photo courtesy of Rumble Boxing Gulch Nashville
“We own who we are, and this brand aligns with that perfectly,” said Antonio. “This is what we want to create and bring to this community: a fitness class that is designed for anyone and a place for people to be who they are. As a Black and gay-owned business, we want to help lower the division we see in the world right now. Our goal is to bring people together through Rumble, set everything aside, and have fun.”
To echo their message of acceptance and inclusion, Blake and Antonio commissioned a local Nashville artist to paint an 11 X 6-ft. mural of Nashville icon and philanthropist, Dolly Parton. The massive portrait features the country star in Rumble Boxing gear in the lobby of the studio.
The excitement and buzz around Rumble allowed Blake and Antonio to recruit top-tier trainers to head up the new studio, including Head Trainer Oronde Jones, a well-known celebrity trainer in the Nashville market.
Rumble Boxing Fitness Studio
Photo courtesy of Rumble Boxing Gulch Nashville
“Compared to other fitness classes, Rumble is a class you can truly get lost in for 45 minutes. With the dark room, you don’t have to worry if anyone is paying attention to you. The music is awesome and inspiring, and the beat drops right when you need it the most. Also, with boxing being a sport you can never truly master, you’re always improving and crafting your skill. On the floor, you’re consistently doing something new, which prevents you from ever hitting a plateau.” Said Oronde Jones about his favorite part of Rumble.
Rumble has massive brand loyalty and widespread appeal, partly thanks to attracting top names like Justin Bieber, Selena Gomez, Kendall Jenner, Hailey Baldwin, Jason Derulo, David Beckham, and Kevin Hart to its studios.
About Rumble Boxing
Founded in New York City in 2017, Rumble is a group fitness concept delivering a mix (or combination) of boxing-inspired circuits and the transformative power of resistance training. Pro and amateur fighters glove up together, no matter their fitness level or skill, to reveal their inner fighter. The experience is a 45-minute, 10-round, full-body cardio and strength workout crafted around specially designed water-filled, teardrop-style boxing bags. Rumble was founded by Noah Neiman (former Barry’s Bootcamp Master Trainer, and cast member of Bravo’s Work Out New York), Eugene Remm (Co-Founder of Catch Hospitality Group (Catch Restaurants, CATCH STEAK, Lexington Brass), Andy Stenzler (Co-Founder Cosí, Kidville), and Anthony DiMarco (13-time IRONMAN, former Managing Director, Google).
Who would have thought that we would have to get through a pandemic in order to appreciate the small things we have, such as the ability to simply pack our bags and hit the road?
For two years, there’s been nothing left for us travel junkies to do but sit at home and try to find new destinations that we will conquer once we defeat what appears to be the biggest villain of the 21st century. But once that happens, hold your bags tight because we will be up for some of the most interesting travel experiences. Take a look at some ideas for your post-COVID traveling plans:
A Gay Cruise
One of the best options to have in mind when all of this passes is a good, nice and long (pun intended) gay cruise. Or cruise in general, for that matter. Bear in mind, social distancing will still be a thing in the post-COVID world. But COVID-19 likely doesn’t mean that cruises will cease to exist. On the contrary, though cruise ships will probably keep the number of passengers smaller than before, it is believed that they will become an even bigger hit in the following period, especially because they are all going to go a lot more environmentally-friendly. On the bright side, is there any better way of celebrating the end of the pandemic than by cruising around some magnificent seas, stopping by at great cities and having romantic dinner nights at nice restaurants?
A getaway in nature
On the other hand, there is always the option of stepping away from the hustle and bustle of large cities, and spending some time in a place that’s not only healthy, but also beautiful. Some of the destinations that plenty of people will look for are the ones that can cater for both peace of mind and amazing things to see or do. One such destination is New Zealand, one of the greenest countries on Earth right now. Not only will you be visiting the magnificent country that gave us the beautiful Shire from Lord of the Rings; this is also a destination that’s excellent for everyone who prefers relaxing to partying. If you’re up for some partying, you will be able to hit Auckland, while if you’re for something calmer, there’s plenty of amazing places that you can see and visit.
Dancing Around at Pride
Pride parades are also events that you want to have in mind for the post-COVID world. Such events have always been quite important, but it seems that they are now more important than ever. The virus has canceled more than 75 Pride parades all around the world, which is one of the reasons why we must support the ones that will see the light of day once the pandemic stops. Truth be told, the upcoming Prides will perhaps be the best Prides ever organized. Give the gays a couple of weeks of quarantine, then let them outside and see what kind of party they are able to throw!
A road trip
If you’re, as well, waiting for the day to wake up and say “long gone are the days when we were not allowed to go wherever we wanted?”, and if staying at one place gave you a lot to think about, then your first post-COVID travel experience should definitely be a nice road trip. You can practically choose which country you want to tour, and you can either take your own car (you have probably missed it so much), or rent one at your destination. Australia is an amazing country for this, though, as it offers the possibility of seeing the Great Ocean Road, which is an amazing thing to see and experience. On the other hand, if you do not want or cannot leave your country, you can also choose to go on a domestic road trip – there are amazing things to see in your vicinity as well.
Holiday for a single guy
If you’re single, or you’re traveling someplace with another single friend, then you should definitely organize a nice vacation for yourself or for you and your single friend, and hit one of the best European cities. Europe has been greatly affected by the virus, which means that now it’s time to pay it back and get it back on its feet by traveling there and seeing all the amazing things it offers. Any city you choose in Europe – you will not make a mistake. Apart from being able to see great landmarks, you will also have the chance to have a drink at great gay clubs and pubs, and join unforgettable gay parties. And if the gay scenery is not your forte, worry not, as Europe indeed has to offer so many different and magnificent things.